Woolen-Spun Cormo by ElsaWool

DSC_0006 DSC_0101I’m really excited to share with you a new feature I plan to have alongside every pattern. In the hopes of connecting you more with the yarn we spend so much of our time knitting with, I will dedicate a post to the yarn used, the company who produces it, and sometimes the face of the farmer behind the wool!
Stepping Stitches, which I revisited this week, uses three skeins of Elsawool’s Woolen-Spun 100% Cormo wool yarn. This 2ply yarn is bouncy and elastic, and left in it’s natural colour it has the incredible rustic heatherd look of the fleece. But no scratchy farm wool here – Cormo wool is incredibly soft, and this yarn is divine! It’s so warm and buttery, you want to bury your cheeky right in it.

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Above images all © Elsawool www.wool-clothing.com

Just spending a few moments on Elsawool’s website you can tell that there is a lot of pride in their work. Elsawool provides high quality 100% Cormo products, from yarn, to sweaters, shawls and socks, and it is evident that incredible care and attention to detail is taken every step of the way. Even the yarn label goes above and beyond to explain how to properly care for your finished knit.
So here is the fun part, rather than me blab on about how much I love this yarn, I asked Elsa, who kindly agreed, to answer a few questions about her work, her wool and her lifestyle…

 Annie : Firstly can you tell us a little about Elsawool, what it does and why it exists?
Elsa : Elsawool came into existence for several reasons. First, I saw a need for good quality yet affordable wool clothing. Second, my life and my livelihood always have revolved around animals. I grew up on a farm, always kept a lot of animals, managed a pet farm, and worked as a veterinary nurse. Third, I’ve been involved with crafts all my life. All these factors converged in 1983, and I began keeping fiber animals, and having their fleeces made into yarns and knitted clothing and other products.

So why Cormo sheep? You don’t have to have a skein of 100% Cormo wool in your hands long to fall head over heals for it, but what makes it so special?
The Cormo breed was developed in Tasmania from Corriedale rams and superfine Merino ewes (Cor-mo). The superfine ewes contributed fineness and density to the wool, and the Corriedale rams added softness. Cormo wool is as fine as average merino wool, and it’s exceptionally soft. When I met my first Cormos and buried my hands into their fleeces I was surprised at how different from other fine wools the Cormo wool felt. After that, I never considered being involved with any other breed of sheep.

I love the light, bouncy feel of the woolen-spun yarn I used for this scarf, but you also offer a worsted-spun yarn. What is the difference between the two?
In the woolen spinning system, all the wool fibers (long and short) are carded and spun without putting the fibers in close alignment with each other. This system creates an airy, lofty, warm, absorbent, and cozy-feeling yarn.
In the worsted spinning system, the wool is carded, combed, drafted, and spun. Combing removes the short fibers and leaves only the longer fibers. Drafting aligns the fibers, making them parallel to each other and tightly packed together.  These processes result in dense, smooth, and strong yarns.
My worsted yarns are more expensive than my woolen yarns — because extra steps are required to make the yarns, and because only about 2/3 of the wool is used, and the other 1/3 is made into products of little monetary value.

All your yarn and fiber products are left in it’s natural color, and I love that. How hard is it for the mill to maintain the colours, or does it come down to when you sort and grade fleeces?…
The shades of gray are created at the mill by blending white wool with black and gray wools. Because the fleeces vary in color and shade from year to year, we’re not able to predict the exact color and shade we’ll get from each blend of white and dark wool. But we’re able to get very close to the shade we want.

Have you ever thought of dying your yarn?
I don’t plan on dyeing any of my yarn.  I leave that to others. Several dyers buy yarns from me, dye them, and sell the dyed yarns.

I understand you also buy from a flock from Montana but how many sheep do you run? How many times a year do you shear?
Fine wool sheep are shorn once a year.
I used to run 200 – 300 or more sheep. Shortly after I bought the first Cormos, I saw health problems in some of them. Later I learned that they had come to me with OPP, which is an incurable and fatal virus. After trying unsuccessfully for 7 years to eradicate this disease from my flock, I gave up. I stopped breeding the sheep and let each ewe live until she had to be put down. Now my beloved Cormos are no more. I’ve been buying Cormo wool from a family in Montana.  These people were among the first to import Cormos to the US, and they produce very good wool. My hope is to start a new flock some day.

How far do the fleeces travel to be spun into yarn?
My wool travels first from Colorado and Montana to a scouring mill in Texas, where it is washed. Some of the washed wool goes to Wisconsin and is spun into woolen yarns, and some goes to New England to be spun into worsted yarns. After that, some of the yarns are sent to other states and are knitted into clothing.

Where can we find your yarn?
You can find my yarns and clothing at www.wool-clothing.com, and also at the Wool Festival at Taos on the first full week-end of October.

What is a day in the life of Elsa?
Until recently my days were spent mostly outdoors — caring for the sheep and goats and guard dogs, tending the land, and building and maintaining barns, fences, roads, etc.. Without the sheep, most of my days are now focused on designing, making, and selling Cormo wool products.

Thanks Elsa!

Revisiting : Stepping Stitches

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With the decision to stop dying yarn and focus more on my knitting, I have spent some time going back over my existing patterns and paying them some attention.
I have given them a bit of an overhaul, updated the layout to make them more consistent with one another, perhaps tweaked the design a little, but, most importantly I have paired them each with a new yarn, one that is current and available.
In stepping away from my naturally dyed, CA grown organic yarn, which I loved to make available for others, I have decided to highlight yarns that might be American grown and spun, or organically grown, or naturally dyed, or all of the above! There are so many amazing yarns out there – some big names, and some small farms – and I’m going to try to convince you why they should be dominating your stash!!!

So with all this in mind; here is Stepping Stitches.
This scarf was my first pattern, and it was designed to teach a beginners knitting class. In fact it was the pattern I sent knitters away with once we had spent the afternoon drilling out knit and purl stitches. I’ve taken the orginal short, skinny scarf that was designed not to intimidate knitters into a scarf that I actually want to wear. The main factor? Squish. And a lot of it. I reworked the scarf to be almost 6 feet allowing a good wrap around the neck and shoulders, and it is wide, plenty of width to be worn more like a shawl if wanted. The stitch pattern is a classic one made up of simple knit and purl stitches, and in Elsawool’s Woolen-Spun? The knitted fabric is so so buttery soft, light and warm. I could go on and on about this yarn all day, but I wont right now, as later on this week I’m going to have a post specifically about the yarn used – something I will do for each pattern.
So those are the changes to the design and a little about the yarn, as for the layout? It’s just about keeping it simple. The pattern is a free download you can have a look for yourself here, but this is what you will find :

  • Clutter free layout. Easy to read yarn and needle requirements, simple abbreviation list, and if there are charts they are clear and to the point.
  • No huge images, to help with the cost of printing!
  • Links – they are all over the place. Anything highlighted in green is a link. This is to help people reading the pattern on their computer/tablet device/phone so much easier. For example :
  1. The pattern title will take you straight to the ravelry pattern page so you can jump straight there if you want more information, start your own project page, or to see other knitter’s projects etc.
  2. The yarn is linked to its online home, which is usually where you can purchase it directly from the company/farm. There is also a ravelry yarn link so you could quickly find out if someone is selling the yarn from their personal stash.
  3. The abbreviations have a helpful link in case you need a little support with some of the knitting terms.
  4. I also often link specific knitting techniques to helpful tutorials about the web, in case it is your first time using it. I’ve found this feature in other people patterns so helpful and have learned so many new methods this way!
  5. And finally contact details : my website and email. Please let me know if you have a question!

So there is a bit of an intro into what I’ve been up to : next up, the yarn!

The New Year

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There is nothing like a New Year to fuel ambition!… I’m coming back to this space, probably just as and when I can, but I do have a few things I’m excited to share with you!!
We are enjoying an unusually warm week this month, and boy are we soaking it in. I have the back door wide open, laundry on the line and a content six month old who is her happiest self when out in the fresh air watching the trees sway. So you see this year is starting off on a good foot (ok, so I’m cancelling out the first week of illness, I’m allowed), and whats more, close friends just had their first brand new sweet baby, and there is nothing better than knitting up something tiny and cute to send on its way.

I’ve decided its going to be a good year.

Summer Sweaters

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We are all adjusting. Actually better than I thought we would. Maybe it’s the amazingly sunny Californian summers day, or this morning’s visit from my two best knitterly friends, but it is starting to feel like we are slowly getting our groove back, and fitting into this world now as a family.

But of course it’s chaos, we’re tired, and I forget things, lots of things – one happens to be the beginning of the Summer Sweater KAL over at luvinthemommyhood. I’m no stranger to Shannon’s KALs, and in fact they are the only KALs I have ever joined in with, they’re too much fun to say no to!
However, what with my new life as Mama leaving a lot less time to knit (but I do have two FOs under my belt! more on those soon), my official ambitions for this KAL are a lot smaller than last year’s… but also because I’m going to throw in some unofficial goals.

‘Officially’ I am going to work on something for our little girl – Ruffaluffaugus by Cassandra Dominick. Not only does this pattern have the best name ever, but Cassy was awesome to offer the pattern up for free the first few days it was available. I snaffled it up, not knowing if we were to have a boy or a girl, only that it was a super cute pattern and one I would like to have stashed away. Fast forward a few weeks and I’m here, with a sweet baby girl and the unpredictable Northern Coastal CA weather. It’s all about layers. I feel like I have made our littleun wear her Puerperium Cardigan every other day, and so I was trawling through ravelry for a similar type of thing… and as it goes, the Ruffaluffagus (still love that name) popped up and to the front of the queue it went! The yarn I’m going to cast on with I am really excited about. I’m not a pink person, but I’m willing to try it out given the circumstances (you can’t avoid it, seriously, when you have a girl people give you pink things) and so when NorthboundKnitting had an update I just JUMPED at the Victorian colourway. Ok, I know, its mostly grey, but with that little bit of pink? Just scrummy.

Unofficially? Well, I went through my project basket of… projects bags. I found three sweaters. First one being the Brock Cardigan from the Spring Tops, Tanks and Tees KAL, so I really shouldn’t be counting it, but, unofficially I can do what I want right?! I have only just a few inches of the sleeves left to do, but I’m trying to work them two at a time on too short of a circular needle, and, well, I just need to get a longer needle or go back to working them one at a time. I should be wearing this cardigan right now, its so perfect for this summer weather (wasn’t that the point of the KAL?).
The second is a project I cast on a few months in to my pregnancy and I was so determined to finish before baby came… but, then, 17 inches of stockinette stitch at ~400 sts per round happened. It’s Boxy by Joji Locatelli and I still love, love this pattern. Hopefully having a bit of a break from it will keep me going until the end, before those wrinkles get really set in there!
Thirdly, the Judith Cardigan by Cecily Glowik MacDonald for my sister in law (nope, no pink for me). Yes, I’m that person that offers to knit someone something for Christmas, and then thinks about finishing it 7 months later! Yikes. The truth is that I found an error in the pattern and whilst I waited (a long time) for a response other projects jumped on the needles. I want to finish this off for her asap as she also just had a baby, a week or so before us, and I can’t wait to send this along to give her something special to cosy up in. We decided to make the cardi fully length, in the body and the sleeves, so there is a little extra brain work, but I’m just remembering how fun that lace pattern is!

So officially and unofficially I’d like to finish as much of the above as I can before the KAL deadline September 24th, but we’ll see – Mama brain, and duties, might have other plans…

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Birthday love

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As I find my way back to my knitting nook… along with baby monitors and boppy pillows… I am slowly finishing up reworking all my patterns ready for mini re-releasings this fall. As I made the decision to stop naturally dying yarn on a consistent basis I have gone back to each of my patterns and taken the time to match them with other amazing yarns. I continue to focus working with only American raised fiber, or organic, or naturally dyed yarn, and in the process I am giddy with what we have access to these days!
I am offering up a little sale this week as today it is my birthday!.. 25% off all patterns in my ravelry store … and as I re-release each pattern over the next coming months, you will automatically get the updated version to your library. Just a little something from me to you, as this new Mama enjoys a first birthday with the best gift of all! ♥

(Sale finishes end of day Friday 7/26)

Currently

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Oh there is such a buzz about the place these days. The farm is busy and bustling, keeping us on our toes, long summer days are enticing us to spend every daylight hour outside and with due date around the corner we are in that strange state of limbo knowing that baby could come any minute, or a few weeks from now. The excitement of all the above brings along this hum that has me here and there, this project and that, working hard to finish up deadlines, but also playing around with projects, just, because!

I have finished up one set of Miss Maggie’s knitted garments and find myself stalled for the moment on the sewing of the body. I had originally thought I would churn out a few sets at once, but they are taking me longer than I thought (surprised?) and there is a birthday deadline coming up fast. I really want to begin sewing her dress and pajamas (they look like pjs to me!), but having recognised that the hand sewing of the felt body is the part I am least excited about I want to get it out of the way. I haven’t sewn by hand, apart from the odd binding, in a long time and I think its just the lack of practice that is making me drag me feet.

Whilst I knit many in my first few years of becoming a knitter I can’t remember the last time I worked on knitting a toy. For some reason my practical brain would now rather knit a sweater or scarf – something that is useful, and has purpose. Mister found an antler in one of the pastures a few months back and one of the mentioned plans for it was to turn it into a mobile! Of course, it has been moved from place to place around the house, not evolving into any of the ideas we had for it, but the other day I remembered Susan B Anderson‘s book Itty-Bitty Nursery, and more specifically the pattern (!?!) that had ultimately persuaded me to purchase it. It’s funny how certain patterns will stick with you, and one day, having not thought about it for years, you will drop everything to search it out amongst the gazillion places you could have bookmarked it. And so, that particular afternoon, I did just that, dropped everything, dug out all my worsted weight cotton scraps and spent a little time on the first mouse…We will see if it amounts to anything!

On the flip side to the random cast-ons, I also find myself really wanting to finishing up projects that have hung around for too long. It’s time to de-clutter (isn’t it always!?). I have spent some time at my spinning wheel, which has also been moved from room to room the past few months as what was my ‘zone’ is slowly becoming the baby room. I don’t spend enough time spinning as I think I’d like, as I’m always surprised by how much I enjoy it when I eventually get down to it. I had begun spinning up some naturally dyed 100% Romney fiber last time I was at the wheel and wanted to finish up the rest before I move on (this has been hanging around, teasing me). So some I plyed, and the rest I left single, about 130 yds. I’m sure there is a cute little baby hat pattern out there which could use up this little amount. I love how this fiber spun up. Sure, I’m a little out of practice, but I think I like it even more for the inconsistency, and the subtle tonal changes of the coffee and rhubarb leaf pigment make for a bright and sunny skein. Baby perfect.

I have been squirreling away at finishing up some design work, and was happy to finally complete the knitting on two patterns this week – two different styles of child ballet-wrap style cardigans in sport weight. I am now looking for test knitters, so please contact me if you are interested. There will be more information in the ravelry group shortly with specifics.

In finishing those two designs, I felt like I could reward myself! Another cast on, of course! But something that I don’t have to think about. I picked up Natural Nursery Knits by Erika Knight from the library a while back, and apart from going though it once, it sat untouched until I returned it a few weeks later (like most knitting pattern books I get from the library – why I continue to take them out I don’t know). But one particular project stayed with me (I’m amazed at how yarn requirements get logged subconsciously) and I found Brown Sheep’s Cotton Fine, an undyed fingering weight cotton/merino blend, at my local yarn store which had to come home with me, just in case. This past weekend, I took the undyed and softened it slightly in a bracken dye bath, creating a neutral sandy tan colour. The photo of the skeins rather than the wip is more true to the actual colour. Nothing like freshly dyed yarn to motivate you to finish off a deadline. I went back to the library, found the book, and cast on yesterday. I’m only a few inches in, but I love the fabric this yarn is creating.

So there is a lot going on – and I haven’t even mentioned what has been happening at my sewing machine!
Of course, the challenge at the moment is to try finish it all before baby arrives! (I know, I hear you – ‘yea right!?’)